Woman, Teen Hospitalized With Hundreds of Bee Stings Following Collision

The Valley Sun    By Sara Cardine   3/10/14

A woman and teenage girl involved in a car crash were hospitalized with hundreds of bee stings on Sunday after one of the vehicles hit a tree containing a hive in La Cañada Flintridge.

The two victims were taken to USC Verdugo Hills Hospital for treatment, according to Lt. Angela Shepherd of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station. Hospital spokeswoman Celine Petrossian said Wednesday she could not state their respective conditions, nor whether either of them had been released.

While the condition of the victims remains unclear, city officials are in the process of removing the tree which contained the hive of bees responsible for the attack.

The 34-foot silver maple, located at 2034 Los Amigos St., is scheduled for removal Thursday due to structural damage, Gonzalo Venegas, the city’s facilities and maintenance superintendent reported Wednesday. That particular area is within the city right of way, making the tree the property of the city.

Prior to the accident, the bees were mostly likely hidden inside the tree. The city received no earlier reports from residents regarding bee sightings in or around the tree, said Venegas, adding that the city has visited the site numerous times since the Sunday afternoon incident.

The two cars collided about 2:50 p.m. on Los Amigos, according to a news release from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

One of the cars slammed into the maple tree, aggravating the hive of bees that swarmed the drivers after they got out of their vehicles and attempted to exchange information, Capt. Brian Kane of the Los Angeles County Fire Department told the Los Angeles Times.

One of the drivers, identified as a 51-year-old resident of La Cañada Flintridge, ran to the back of a home and jumped into a swimming pool, according to the sheriff’s department.

She waited in the pool until paramedics arrived, Kane said.

The other driver, a 17-year-old girl from La Cañada involved in the accident, “collapsed” to avoid further bee stings, and was found in that position when deputies arrived on scene, according to Shepherd.

The first deputy to arrive saw the teen and used a fire extinguisher to get the bees off her, officials said. They then ran to safety.

The assisting deputy also was stung, but was not taken to a hospital.

Firefighters initially tried to contain the swarming bees with fire-fighting foam, while the Sheriff’s Department kept passersby away from the scene, Shepherd said.

“We blocked off some of the streets at first, because firemen didn’t want people coming into the area,” she added.

At about 4 p.m., the Sheriff’s Department contacted La Cañada Flintridge’s Public Works Department to help control the bees, according to an employee with the department.

Staff then contacted the city’s tree service, and were put in touch with La Cañada business Mike’s Spray and Tree, a tree service that also handles insect removal and pest control, and reportedly took care of containment at the scene.

It’s unknown whether the bees were of a domestic honeybee variety or the more aggressive Africanized hybrid variety. Generally speaking, however, any bees discovered acting irascibly and stinging people are generally assumed to be Africanized, said Ken Pellman, a spokesman with the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office.

Because these bees were wild and on public property, as opposed to a colony kept privately by a resident, they could be categorized as a public nuisance and dealt with however the removal company saw fit, Pellman added.

“There’s some that will do it, and will take them alive, and there’s some that will take them out,” Pellman said. “The goal is human safety over all.”

Editor's Note: This article was updated at 4:15 p.m. on March 12, 2014 to include more information.